Getting things done

How much time does it take to turn an idea into a product, business, or service? Every minute, of every hour, of every day. It takes commitment. Time, however, isn’t always easy to come by—especially for students who have to manage a whole range of commitments. That’s why our latest Summer of Student Innovation (SOSI) summer school was organised to let the students get on and get things done.

Jameson Gagnepain: (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Jameson Gagnepain: (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A key message emerging from the Summer School—failure is a very realistic outcome. Developing a product, business or service is not easy! SOSI provides students with a safe environment to test out their ideas, gather feedback and build upon what they have. Fail fast, move on! Jisc are not necessarily expecting students to have developed the next “big thing” within the three/four month time period available to participants but are interested in each project succeeding in one of four areas:

  • Define—clearly articulated their problem-space, investigated the existing market/competition, and reviewed options available to them.
  • Design—produced a range of product/service designs, whether they’re low-fi prototypes, wireframes, or user stories.
  • Develop—created and tested a working prototype or functional product.
  • Delivery—the piloting of a functional product/service and development of a business plan.

Success in one, or more, of these four areas then provides the student-led projects and Jisc with a range of options e.g. Jisc continues to support the project beyond the life of this year’s competition, a project partners with a relevant sector organisation to progress their project, the students go it alone (so to speak, the SOSI network will always be open to them), or the project is closed.

So, what happened at this Summer School?

This month’s Summer School was split into three “hack” streams. One focused on defining and designing; one focused on technical development; and one focused on delivery. A range of experts were on hand within each of the hack streams to help students with any questions they might have or to try and help resolve issues and move them forwards.

A photo of Paul Bailey introducing the Summer School at Conference Aston

On day 2 we had three great presentations, from Yvonne Quinn, Richard Jones and Joseph McArthur. Yvonne focused on what’s required to set-up a business and outlined five key steps (although this doesn’t do her advice justice!):

  1. Feasibility study
  2. Gather some evidence your idea works
  3. Quantify the opportunity
  4. Assess the competition—there’s always competition
  5. Write a business plan

Richard gave an overview of his experience of developing an idea and noted the importance of focusing on the user. Step back from what you think the solution is and ask the people that will be using your product/service what it is they would like and how that might be delivered. Talk with them about what’s possible, not at them!

From a personal perspective I think the work Joseph’s doing is outstanding, championing open access. In doing so Joseph and his team/network have developed the Open Access Button which anyone can use to highlight where research is being blocked by a paywall. Joseph reiterated the point made earlier about commitment, spending much of his personal time on this project for the past year and a half.

The final day was a chance for students to share their progress and practise pitching their ideas. I have to say, each and every project did a fantastic job. Projects were allowed two minutes to present, with a short time afterwards to answer questions from the audience. A lot of the presentations were developed the night before, some even off the cuff but they all delivered!

Here’s an example from Lingoflow < Thanks Kamil and Lukas!

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